Sveum has new view of Brewers
The only history he knows of the Cubs is what he has read in old newspaper clippings and from the opposing dugout.
But there he was Monday night, managing the Cubs against the Brewers after the team that owns his heart twice declined to make him manager.
“It’s a baseball game, and you just happen to be playing a team that you’ve been a part of for a long time in your career,” Sveum said before the Cubs’ 7-5 loss.
It’s hard to believe this was just another game for Sveum, who knows the Brewers so well, he did the series scouting report by himself.
“We might have been able to give (scouts) a series off because I was able to handle the whole deal,” he said with a chuckle.
Sveum’s roots with the Brewers run so deep, he was one of the fortunate few who escaped a near-fatal spring training clubhouse explosion in 1986.
“There was this big boom, and I remember looking down that hallway and seeing that ball of flame coming at us,” Sveum remembered years later. “I ran out that door as fast as I could. ... I remember smelling guys’ hair burning. We all just scattered. I was lucky.”
Twenty-five years later, he was hitting coach as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder finished first and third in National League MVP voting to lead the Brewers to the NL Central title.
And now he’s managing against Braun and thankful Fielder is in the American League with the Tigers.
“You never really root for anybody in your division to win games unless it’s something that helps your team,” Braun said. “(But) I’ll always root for Dale. He’s a great person and incredible coach and fun to be around.”
Sveum was quick to return the compliment, saying he expects Braun to survive just fine without Fielder batting behind him.
“You always say great hitters (will not be as good after losing their protection), and then the season gets over and the numbers still seem to be the same,” Sveum said. “Some guys are just that good.
“One thing Braunie’s changed is his discipline at the plate. If that continues—not that you put anybody in Barry Bonds’ category—but Bonds never had anybody hitting behind him. He seemed to get that one pitch a day, and he’d do something with it.”
Braun looked just the same as last season, with a pair of hits, a walk and a run scored while listening to boos from fans upset that he escaped a suspension for a failed drug test.
Brewers right fielder Corey Hart, who hit three homers in the opening series against the Cardinals, said it was “definitely different” to have Sveum in an enemy dugout.
“I’m excited for him,” Hart said. “He’s going to be a great manager. He’s been a hard-working guy, (but) he gets after guys. And he gets respect from his team.”
The truth is, Sveum probably knows Brewers hitters better than his own, although the Cubs didn’t appear ready for either of the squeeze bunts the Brewers executed Monday.
“That definitely gives you an edge, but the bottom line is you still have to make your pitches,” Sveum said. “Through the video equipment that everybody has now, you get to know people just as well as I do.
“Now, I know insights and the mental part of people that the video doesn’t show. I think that’s going to benefit us, but you still have to execute the pitches, execute the plan and the sequence of the pitches.”